Keep heads in the game

More should be done to reduce concussions among athletes

While watching Monday night’s college football title matchup between Alabama and Notre Dame, you might have wondered how many players had their heads in the game.

But not enough of us share a genuine concern for those players’ heads while they’re in the game.

Football is fun to watch but extremely physically risky to play. One big injury can end a career. But several injuries over a long period – particularly brain injuries – can take a toll on an athlete that’s much more grave.

Studies are mounting: Concussions in college football are becoming more common, and so are their lingering negative health effects, such as depression, memory loss and, over time, a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

A study in the journal Neurology collected data about head injuries from college athletes, then gave them cognitive tests after their seasons ended. The finding: The more blows to the head, the worse the athletes performed on tests. When student-athletes become worse students by being more physical athletes, that’s a huge problem.

How can athletes be better protected from brain injuries? In football, no cutting-edge helmet design is going to completely protect players from bone-jarring, brain-shaking damage.

Reducing the number of full-contact practices would be an excellent start. So would capping the number of head hits a player can take each season.

Failing now to protect young athletes puts their futures in peril.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon